Thursday, October 6, 2022
Prez Biden asking to start "administrative process to review expeditiously how marijuana is scheduled under federal law"
In this post at my other blog, I focused on the interesting (but not really big) news, set forth in a this official statement from the White House, that Prez Biden today announce that his is "pardoning all prior federal offenses of simple marijuana possession" and that he is "calling on governors to pardon simple state marijuana possession offenses." I will likely blog more over there about the criminal justice echoes of this interesting mass pardon announcement and exhortation to governors to follow suit.
But here, where we focus on "Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform," I want to focus on the interesting (and perhaps really) news that Prez Biden has also leaned into rescheduling of marijuana via this part of his statement:
Third, I am asking the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General to initiate the administrative process to review expeditiously how marijuana is scheduled under federal law. Federal law currently classifies marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, the classification meant for the most dangerous substances. This is the same schedule as for heroin and LSD, and even higher than the classification of fentanyl and methamphetamine – the drugs that are driving our overdose epidemic.
Finally, even as federal and state regulation of marijuana changes, important limitations on trafficking, marketing, and under-age sales should stay in place.
I have been asked a few questions already about how long it will take to conduct an "administrative process to review expeditiously how marijuana is scheduled under federal law." My sense is that it will take years, not months, and that there is sure to be lots of debate over the science and politics of rescheduling even if there is a broad consensus that marijuana should no longer be on schedule I. This Marijuana Moment piece, headlined "DOJ To ‘Expeditiously’ Act On Biden’s Marijuana Pardon Directive, While HHS ‘Looking Forward’ To Scheduling Review," covers a bit of the process and the politics:
The Justice Department and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) say they will quickly act to follow President Joe Biden’s new directive to review marijuana’s federal scheduling status and process mass cannabis possession pardons.
Within an hour after the president made the surprise announcement, a DOJ spokesperson released a statement saying the department would abide by the cannabis directive in an expedited fashion.... “Also, in accordance with the President’s directive, Justice Department officials will work with our colleagues at the Department of Health and Human Services as they launch a scientific review of how marijuana is scheduled under federal law,” the agency said.
HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra separately said in a tweet — posted as precisely 4:20 PM ET — that he’s “looking forward to working with Attorney General Garland to answer [Biden’s] call to action to review how marijuana is scheduled under federal law.”...
Biden’s scheduling review—which would be conducted by DOJ and HHS—could reshape federal marijuana policy depending on the final recommendation. Biden has faced numerous calls from advocates to use his executive authority to unilaterally initiate that process.
The agencies could ultimately recommend moving marijuana from the strictest classification of Schedule I under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) to a lower schedule or no schedule at all.
Biden has said he supports rescheduling to Schedule II, but advocates have pushed for complete descheduling, which would effectively end prohibition.